According to the map, the only road (at least that's what we saw in the map) to Leon from Picos was via Riano, a town that we had planned to visit for caving but didn't had the time to do so, and it was a fairly straight forward and short (2-3 hours) journey. Fantastic.
Happily, we followed the map and 2 hours later....we were still in the mountains! We have been conquering one mountain after another.....the journey never seems to end! What drawn as a straight road turned out to be a mountainous road.....it was a rude shock....we were behind schedules yet again. Surprisingly, not only were we not upset, we actually enjoyed the ride. Our excitement rose when we suspected that we might be heading towards the summit.....which means "dream comes true - enjoying snow on a snow-capped mountain minus the climb".....chuckle chuckle....sinister laugh!
What was a casual comment at a lookout point (hilltop village) we visited last night turned out to be a wish granted. Wow! who says God is not listening. Another 1/2 hours drive and we were presented with the marvelous beauty of nature....
A mountain of fresh pine trees and snow.....so Christmasy.....gotten some ideas for our Christmas party.
Since it is not travel season, we had the whole mountain (urh....at least the part next to the road) all to ourselves. We could play whatever and whichever way we wanted. Despite not having the right attire for the 1.5°C temperature and strong wind, we didn't care much. We just park our car and hop right into the ankle-deep snow almost bare-footed (well, we didn't have extra shoes and our sport shoes aren't waterproof). Instantly, we were like children....forgetting the world around us, no worries, no timelines, just play.
Man against nature....after 15 mins, we started shivering and that signifies time to move on (with our car heater on full blast). Not long after, we reached a lovely Christmas-town look alike. If only we had the chance to stay there for a night or two. What a pity.
|Stream next to Christmas-town|
Shortly after this town, we reached the end of our mountainous journey. We took an expensive toilet break (the law of supply and demand) in a slightly bigger town, lingered for one last look at the captivating beauty the mountains have to offer before crossing this river to urbanisation.
We had light sandwiches on the go to make up for lost time (we end up with 5 hrs drive) and managed to reach Leon in time to catch her most iconic buildings before they close for the day.
First to visit - Cathedral of Santa Maria, most renowned for its stained glass.
|Main entrance to cathedral|
Be mesmerized by the grandeur of the interior.
|Leading to the main altar|
|A very unique main altar|
Without a camera stand (we brought but it was not allowed in the cathedral), our camera has limited capability in taking wowing pictures of stained glasses....so, in order not to short-change them, here are some postcards from the professionals......
......before taking our leave through this door full of interesting carvings.
We continued our next find in the city center, Botines House, yet another piece of architecture art by Gaudi.
|Size view of Botines House....this is where its uniqueness lies|
With not much time left, we head off to our final attraction, St. Isidore's Basilica. It was so near yet so far from the city center. It took us some time driving through the narrow and mostly one-way streets of Leon and finally made an extraordinary turn to reach the basilica just 1/2 hours shy of closing time. Phew!
|Basilica of Saint Isidore|
|Main altar.....very similar to the one in Cathedral of Santa Maria, isn't it? Guess its the style unique to Leon.|
If you're having the same thinking as we were....nothing special about this basilica....in fact, its exterior looks really worn-out if not dilapidated......you're perfectly right about its look. What is truly marvellous about this basilica lies in its vault. St. Isidore's Basilica is renowned for its breath-taking painting of the redemption of Man on the wall and (mostly) ceiling of its vault. To preserve these paintings, no photography is allowed. So, we'll have to leave you with some pictures from the pros again.....
Since we only had 1/2 hours to complete our tour of the basilica, we lingered on till we were one of the last few visitors to leave. Unsatisfied, we wandered around the church compound to enjoy the quietness surrounding it....with all the rushing and commotions from the day gone, the serenity is calming and much needed before we complete the last challenge of the day....finding our hotel.
|Night view of the basilica.....isn't it more captivating in the night?|
With no proper Leon map on hand and we didn't expect Leon to be such a busy city, we had a rather stressful one over hour navigating the streets to finally find our hotel and a free yet safe parking area that was within a short walking distance.
Stress aside, we had a couple of rewards from these short ordeals though. First, we met a nice car workshop owner who allowed us to park our car outside his gate (though a little grouchy) for 10 mins to unload our luggage into the hotel.....that little help really meant a long way to us.
Second, while trying to find our hotel, hubby lost one side of his sandal from the constant in and out of the car to check with pedestrians. Given that it was our first time in Leon and it being a big city and we made a couple of stops; to find that lost sandal is equivalent to finding a needle in a hay sack....mission impossible! Hubby was really upset and hopeless. But, somehow I (the wife) felt otherwise...for whatever reason....it just seem I was being nude to go and find it. So, ignoring hubby's protest, we tried and retraced our route and miracle happened! We found that lost sandal on the opposite direction of a busy road within 5 mins. Without a map, we never expects ourselves to successfully retrace our footstep but we did it.....with the help of the angels and saints. Our journey to Spain was truly a blessed one!
A BIG THANK YOU to the garage owner who lent a helping hand and......
A prayer in Poland....."something's lost and can't be found. Please, St Anthony, look around."
THANK YOU St Anthony!